hawthorn


hawthorn
   Traditional beliefs concerning the hawthorn are contradictory. One particular tree, the *Holy Thorn of Glastonbury, was regarded as sacred since it blossomed at Christmas; its real or reputed descendants are pointed out with respect. A few others had individual names or tales: one, called Beggar's Bush, used to stand on the boundary between Sutton Coldfield and Birmingham, and was said to mark the spot where a beggar was found dead, lying partly in one parish and partly in the other, and so was buried where he lay. Doble's Thorn, at St Giles-in-the-Heath (Cornwall), is said to be where a treasure was found by a man led by a dream, like the *Swaffham Pedlar; Cornishmen thought that whenever people buried treasure they planted a thorn over it.
   Under its alternative name of 'may', hawthorn was frequently mentioned as one of the trees from which branches were taken to decorate houses on *May Day. Early texts can be ambiguous, since any tree used for this purpose might be called a 'may-bush', whatever its species; Aubrey, however, is quite clear: 'At Woodstock in Oxen, they every May-eve goe into ye Parke, and fetch away a number of Hawthorne-trees, wch they sett before their dores, 'tis pity that they make such destruction of so fine a tree' (Aubrey, 1688/1880: 118n.). Related to this was a Suffolk custom, mentioned in 1830 as old but disused, that any farm servant bringing hawthorn in full bloom into the house on May Day would get a dish of cream for breakfast.
   In Herefordshire farms it was customary on *New Year's Day to burn a hawthorn 'bush', i.e. a branch whose twigs had been forcibly bent into a thorny globe, which had hung in the kitchen for a year as a luck-bringer. It was burned in the wheatfield in a straw fire, to protect the future crop from evil spirits, witches, and the disease called 'smut'. Then a new 'bush' would be made, and singed on the embers of the old one (Leather, 1912: 92). Another farming custom based on the protective power of hawthorn is that of hanging a cow's or mare's *placenta on a thornbush. This was seen in Hampshire in 1939, with the explanation that it would prevent fever in the cow (Vickery, 1995: 170); and again in Bilsdale (Yorkshire) in 1998, to bring luck to the newborn foal (Jan Ekermann, FLS News 28 (1998), 8).
   On the other hand, hawthorn blossom is the most widely dreaded of all unlucky *flowers; over 500 contributors to a survey on flower-lore in the 1980s reported that bringing it indoors would cause a death, a major illness or accident, or some form of serious ill luck. In many cases they themselves had been rebuked for doing this. This taboo is sometimes linked to the idea that hawthorn blossom stinks of death or of the *plague, first mentioned by Francis Bacon in 1627 (Sylva Sylvarum, § 912) and still common among countrymen in the 19th century. This has a scientific basis; one species, Crataegus monogyna, has a chemical in its blossoms identical to one in decaying meat, and so smells of corpses.
   ■ Opie and Tatem, 1989: 242-5; Vickery, 1995: 166-72.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

Synonyms:
, (Crataegus oxyacantha)


Look at other dictionaries:

  • Hawthorn — may refer to:In plants: * Common Hawthorn ( Crataegus monogyna ), the Hawthorn tree * Crataegus (hawthorn), a large genus of shrubs and trees in the family Rosaceae * Rhaphiolepis (hawthorn), a genus of about 15 species of evergreen shrubs and… …   Wikipedia

  • Hawthorn — heißen die Orte Hawthorn (Pennsylvania) in den USA Hawthorn (Victoria) in Australien sowie der Mount Hawthorn (Westaustralien) in Australien Hawthorn bezeichnet Hawthorn (Unternehmen), einen ehemaliger Lokomotivhersteller in Newcastle upon Tyne… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Hawthorn — Haw thorn (h[add] th[^o]rn ), n. [AS. haga[thorn]orn, h[ae]g[thorn]orn. See {Haw} a hedge, and {Thorn}.] (Bot.) A thorny shrub or tree (the {Crat[ae]gus oxyacantha}), having deeply lobed, shining leaves, small, roselike, fragrant flowers, and a… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Hawthorn — Hawthorn, PA U.S. borough in Pennsylvania Population (2000): 587 Housing Units (2000): 220 Land area (2000): 1.107734 sq. miles (2.869019 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.000000 sq. miles (0.000000 sq. km) Total area (2000): 1.107734 sq. miles… …   StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places

  • Hawthorn, PA — U.S. borough in Pennsylvania Population (2000): 587 Housing Units (2000): 220 Land area (2000): 1.107734 sq. miles (2.869019 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.000000 sq. miles (0.000000 sq. km) Total area (2000): 1.107734 sq. miles (2.869019 sq. km)… …   StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places

  • hawthorn — O.E. hagaþorn, earlier hæguþorn hawthorn, white thorn, from obsolete haw hedge or encompassing fence (see HAW (Cf. haw)) + THORN (Cf. thorn). A common Germanic name, Cf. M.Du., Ger. hagedorn, Swed. hagtorn, O.N. hagþorn …   Etymology dictionary

  • hawthorn — ► NOUN ▪ a thorny shrub or tree with white, pink, or red blossom and small dark red fruits (haws). ORIGIN Old English, probably with the literal meaning hedge thorn …   English terms dictionary

  • hawthorn — [hô′thôrn΄] n. [lit., hedge thorn < ME hagethorn < OE hagathorn < haga, hedge, HAW1 + thorn, akin to Ger hagedorn] any of a group of thorny shrubs and small trees (genus Crataegus) of the rose family, with white, pink, or red flowers and …   English World dictionary

  • Hawthorn — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Hawthorn peut signifier : Sommaire 1 Autres langues 2 Toponymes …   Wikipédia en Français

  • hawthorn — hawthorny, adj. /haw thawrn /, n. any of numerous plants belonging to the genus Crataegus, of the rose family, typically a small tree with stiff thorns, certain North American species of which have white or pink blossoms and bright colored fruits …   Universalium